A Mom and Somebody Else

The last time I colored my hair I was newly pregnant with Archer, trying to convert my blue-black bob to a natural-brown... non-bob. My plan was to grow it long and keep it natural for a while. I wouldn't have the time nor the money to drop hundreds in the salon every two months, and besides, my hair was WRECKED from years of bleaching and blacking and blacking and bleaching.

(My hair was actually naturally blonde until my early-twenties when I started dying it black. When I decided to let it go natural, the blonde had been replaced with brown, as though my hair said, "oh, you don't want to be blonde anymore? Copy.")

Anyway. My poor hair had been through the ringer and after reading up on "hair chemicals and pregnancy," I decided to go au natural for a while. My hair grew in its newly natural shade of brown and I trimmed my own bangs every few weeks. And that’s how I kept it, relatively the same, for eleven years.

And then last summer, in the throes of an existential crisis (which I am still riding out, let's be clear) I cut a foot off my hair. I had wanted to cut my hair short for months but was dragging my feet until one night I lost it and cut my hair whilst sobbing uncontrollably in a locked bathroom. Nothing to see here, kids! Nothing to see here...

"Change your hair, change your life," is what everyone always says, myself included, and while I spent my formative years changing my hair (and my life) every few months, my hair, since becoming a mother, felt like my identity in this weird way. Maybe because I grew out the fake... maintained the real... let it go gray in places... owned it... looked the same for all of my children... as a mother, as a wife...

For someone who spends much of her life exposed, I sure love a good hiding place, and bangs, for many years, served as mine.
Weeks after I chopped my hair, I regretted it -- frustrated that it was too short to put it back --couldn't put my hair up—that I had to pin it all back to work out. Bobby pins for days... 

And so. A month after chopping it all off, I decided to grow my hair out again. Bangs, too, and FOR REAL this time. In the past, every time I have tried to grow my bangs out, I have given up during the awkward stage and cut them short again. EVERY. TIME.  Not this time, though. This time? I would COMMIT!

This time I had a plan and it looked a little like this. 


The thing is, I never stopped being blonde. I mean, I did. Clearly my hair color changed and yet, for most of my life I was blonde.  So in this weird way, blonde feels like... home?

And while accepting its natural change felt, for many years, an important statement… not just for my children but myself, 2015 skewed my view a little bit. My babies were no longer babies. My nights were no longer sleepless. I was no longer in parental survival mode but in… a new and unfamiliar state of MY KIDS ARE BECOMING THEIR OWN PEOPLE AND IT’S TIME FOR ME TO FOCUS ON BECOMING MY OWN ME. Not that I wasn’t MYSELF before, because I was, but I couldn’t help being MOTHER above all else. Prioritizing self-care and impulse salon marathons was not a thing I was doing, let alone considering. There were too many people who needed me more than I needed myself.

There is an unspoken obligation when it comes to maintaining status quo when one has children. 

Keep it stable.

Put down roots.

Keep a schedule.

Power through...

Spontaneity is NOT FOR US, MOTHER DEARESTS. We are to plan very far in advance and wean our children in and out of stages. Come up with incentives for potty training and sleep training. Start with one food group and go from there.

Same goes with our work. And our looks and our lives. I told my kids last year that I wanted to go blonde like I was once upon a time and they all said NO! YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU WON’T LOOK LIKE MOM ANYMORE.

So I didn’t. And I felt terrible for wanting to.

It wasn’t until I sat down for lunch with a friend  and had a heart spill-open-soul-discussion-about-life-and-love-and-creative-lady-life-change-y-things, that I realized WAIT. WAIIIIIIIIT. 

Or, rather... it was Clem who made me realize... 

We were talking about hair and changes and changing hair change-y change, when I told her that I REALLY wanted to do something drastic but my kids didn't want me to. And it made me feel guilty for wanting to change something that my family didn’t want me to change. And, yes. My hair was a larger metaphor for wanting to commit to being someone else – to doing new things in new directions and and and...

"But YOU'RE the mother. AND you're a woman who is not just the mother...  You need to make decisions for yourself..."

Her words made me cry because, duh. And also... duh. 

I mean, don't get me wrong. I love being a mom. But for the last ten and a half years my personal and professional life has been MOTHER. MOM. MOMMY. ARCHER'S MOM. FABLE'S MOM. BO AND REVI'S MOM. THAT MOM WITH ALL THE KIDS. THE MOM WHO WRITES A BLOG ABOUT BEING A MOM MOM MOTHER MOMMA MOM MOMMY MOM DOT MOM. 

Moments after leaving the restaurant, with Clem's voice in my head singing GO, WOMAN, GO, I made an appointment at a salon in Venice for the following Thursday

I immediately felt like a new woman after hanging up the phone. I was COMMITTING to change. 

I told the kids, of course.

Fable cried.

"Please don't change, Mama. This is what you've always looked like..."

And then I cried.

"Exactly," I said.

I explained to all four of them that sometimes change is GOOD and IMPORTANT and sometimes mamas need to shake things up in order to feel like they can keep moving. I told them I would still be the same person and that they would be used to it within a day and forget I ever looked like anything else.

"Will you make it brown again?"

"Maybe. I don’t know yet... I don’t know what’s going to happen right now, I just know that something needs to. I feel very strongly that something(s) needs to change."

"I hope you make it brown again."

"That's fair," I said. "I understand."
It took eight hours.

It felt like a baptism. The layers and levels of foils. Again and again. Rinse wash... re-foil. Repeat. The change would be dramatic, but contrary to last summer in the bathroom, I was at peace. It all felt poetic. To me. Like I was doing something revolutionary. For me.

And I was. It sounds crazy, maybe, but in the chair of the salon with my eyeballs pressed against the pages of INTERVIEW magazine, I was taking care of myself in a way that had nothing to do with my family. On the contrary, it was AGAINST their very wishes.

It was for me and me alone. IT WAS FOR ME AND ME ALONE.

Sometimes one must break the hearts of the people she loves in order to repair her own. And, yes, it's just hair. But it was so much more than that for me. It was and it is and it will continue to be... a time stamp of something else...

Later that night, when I came home, all four of the kids were in the hallway, still awake, their hands over their eyes "afraid to look."

"It's okay! You can look! Open your eyes!"

They didn't want to. They scurried into the twins' room and huddled together in Revi's bed in a massive heap.

"You guys..."

Slowly... one by one... they looked up. Uncovered their eyes. Spoke words.

Bo immediately started cracking up. "YOU LOOK… DIFFERENT."

Revi loved it and kept clapping her hands. 

Fable wasn’t sure. She hugged me without looking at my face and then pulled away, opened her eyes and then closed them, went back to hugging, her arms tight around my waist.

"You still look like Mom," Archer said. "You just also look like someone else."

"That's because I am."
For the next several days, I felt invincible. Hell, I still do. I feel like I've been reborn in this seemingly petty way that for whatever reason feels SO INCREDIBLY LIFE-CHANGINGLY large. I feel autonomous and badass and NEW. I feel like a mom and somebody else.